HS/SPCA Statement to the Board of County Commissioners on 11/14/17

We at the HS/SPCA of Sumter County are deeply concerned about some of the misstatements being made about our no-kill organization by some members of the public at County Commission meetings. Further, as the format of public forum is not amenable to dialogue, these statements have been entered into the public record with no opportunity for us to reply. As with social media, it is impossible to catch and/or correct every misstatement and I will not attempt to do so here.

It seems quite unfair to us that people can speak third-hand hearsay and questionable or unsupported statements with no regard and no consequences and without an opportunity for those unfairly harmed to respond. In an attempt at creating a balanced view, we respectfully request that this statement be entered into the public record of the BOCC.

The Humane Society/SPCA of Sumter County, Inc. is a 501(c)3 charitable organization now in its 35th year of serving the people and animals of Sumter County. The objectives of the HS/SPCA are to:

  1. Encourage responsible animal ownership practices through education,

  2. Report incidents of animal cruelty and/or neglect to government agencies chartered to take appropriate action,

  3. Provide care for adoptable animals that are injured, abused, unwanted, or abandoned,

  4. Secure permanent homes for as many adoptable animals as possible,

  5. Provide spay and neuter services for animals to be adopted, as appropriate, to reduce unwanted animal populations.

In order to carry out our mission, the HS/SPCA has a number of programs:

  • In addition to daily public contact in person and by telephone, the HS/SPCA speaks at meetings of clubs, organizations and schools. We distribute literature on subjects such as spay/neuter, animal cruelty prevention and hurricane preparedness and participate at various venues throughout the county year-round.

  • The HS/SPCA has operated a “Kibbles” Pet Food Pantry since 2002 to feed the pets of low-income residents so they do not have to give up a beloved family member. As part of this program, pets are required to be spayed or neutered and up to date on rabies vaccinations (we help with these services if required.) This program currently serves 133 families with 184 dogs and 204 cats.

  • We operate “The Big Fix”, a free Spay and Neuter voucher program for low-income residents in order to decrease the numbers of homeless pets and improve their health and well-being. We spayed or neutered 878 pets in 2016; we anticipate exceeding this in 2017as we have done 805 so far. Spay and neuter is a key element towards eliminating the homeless pet problem.

  • The HS/SPCA offers pets for adoption daily (except Sundays) at our Lake Panasoffkee shelter and at PETCO in Lady Lake. We bring adoptable pets to a rotating list of Recreation Centers in The Villages on the third Friday of each month. In addition, we include adoptable animals at special public fundraisers and other events as occasions allow. We partner with reputable no-kill rescue organizations locally and, on occasion, even out of state to give as many animals as possible a chance for a loving home. A staff member is devoted full time to this essential task.

  • The HS/SPCA operates a fostering program. Animals that benefit most from foster care are moms with new babies, animals recovering from injury or illness and animals that do not do well in the shelter environment. The foster home environment gives these animals the extra help and attention they need to become socialized and improves their adoptability.

  • We maintain a “Hope fund.” Named for a newborn kitten that was observed being thrown from a moving vehicle and was saved by caring Sumter residents, the Hope Fund was created to assist abused and neglected animals in emergencies or with critical care needs. Examples from this year include:

    • Rafael, a cat with a degenerative and painful eye condition which had already blinded him. He received surgery to remove his eyes and alleviate his pain, recovered well and was adopted by a woman who loves him unconditionally.

    • Lilith, a young black-mouth cur was caught in a snare trap that left a huge, deep gash in her neck that affected her breathing. She required difficult surgery and a long recovery period with careful care as the wound had a high potential for infection. Despite her horrific ordeal Lilith came to trust her caregivers and now has a much better chance at life.

      The Humane Society/SPCA of Sumter County is and has always been a “no-kill” organization. Although “no-kill” is a problematic term, the most common currently accepted definition is a live release rate of 90% or greater. After a recent visit with our County Administrator to a much larger open-admissions government-operated shelter in Jacksonville we believe that a 90% live release rate is a goal that is not unobtainable for Sumter County Animal Services. The HS/SPCA has worked with, and will continue to work with, Sumter County Animal Services (SCAS) with the goal of improving both the conditions at their facility and the County’s live release rate. Some of the improvements that the HS/SPCA has been able to get implemented at SCAS through professional, respectful discussions are:

  • Cats had no hold time; now they receive the same hold time as dogs

  • The number of cat cages in the hold area has been increased from ten to twenty

  • Deworming of animals – all dogs are now dewormed (3 day treatment) on intake, given DHLPP and Bordetella vaccines, are treated for fleas with Capstar and are given a heartworm test

  • Medical care has improved somewhat with more vet calls for sick animals

  • The County now pays for pain medications for spays and neuters

  • The County now pays for rabies vaccines for animals 4 months of age or older adopted or transferred from SCAS

  • Photos of SCAS animals are posted on the HS/SPCA social media and website

  • Intake photos of stray animals are made available on the same day to facilitate owner reunification via our website

  • Transfers of animals out of state, e.g. 30 cats to NH, 11dogs to MD, 30cats to MD(pending) – the County has paid for rabies vaccines and health certificates

  • The County began using Kuranda beds in the dog kennels

  • Dogs now get out daily for exercise time

  • TNR – Feral Freedom-type program for feral cats is in planning stages.

    The HS/SPCA continues to work with the County to discuss further improvements we would like to see such as the following from a September meeting with Bradley Arnold, Herschel Wiley, Anne Miller and Celine Petrie:

    Critical Changes needed at Sumter County Animal Services

  • No euthanasia for time limits when kennel space is available

    • Give HS/SPCA the maximum time to find a place for them

  • Refine and publish criteria for “unadoptable” animals

    • e.g. July euthanasia report listed zero feral cats and 32 unadoptable cats (64%); if they were not feral, what made them unadoptable? Ten dogs were unadoptable (19%)

  • Timely and appropriate medical care

    • e.g. July euthanasia report listed 2 injured cats, 15 sick (total of 34%) and 26 sick dogs (76%)

    • Improved quarantine measures in place to reduce the spread of infections (e.g. URI in cats)

    • Notify the HS/SPCA promptly of sick animals and litters born and let us decide if we can take them or find a rescue organization for them.

The HS/SPCA is aware of an organized group of local residents expressing reforms they want to see implemented at Sumter County Animal Services. The Board of the HS/SPCA has not been contacted by this group, nor does it have access to their plans. We admire their passion and share their goal of a no-kill Sumter County but cannot endorse some of their methods towards achieving this goal.

The HS/SPCA is composed of a dedicated group of volunteers and paid staff who work hard every day to save and improve the lives of animals in our County. In addition to adoptions and transfers to other no-kill rescue groups, we engage in public education on animal related topics and offer free spay/neuter services and free pet food to low-income residents. In 2016 we directly adopted 577 animals and transferred 1136 to our rescue partners for a total of 1713 animals saved.

This year we have placed over 1500 so far. We operate at capacity or near-capacity every day. Sometimes we operate at over-capacity, such as during peak “kitten season.” Our office is an old modular classroom so maxed out for space that I frequently share a desk with our Shelter Manager or Treasurer while I am at the shelter. Our animals are housed in small outbuildings that are in good condition but offer limited space. We need to expand in order to better serve even more animals.

The County Commissioners frequently urge the concerned public to volunteer with us. We welcome volunteers to assist in a multitude of areas of our lifesaving work, well beyond walking dogs and cleaning litter boxes. Our most critical need at this time is for people with business, banking, building and fundraising experience to help us plan and accomplish building a new, larger shelter on our five-acre site. Community, business and governmental support and involvement are key to achieving and maintaining a no-kill county of which we can be justly proud.

Maintaining good working relationships with animal advocates, rescue groups and SCAS is critical to the HS/SPCA’s mission of saving animals in Sumter County. We will continue to work to save animals with everyone who is willing to do so in a respectful and lawful manner.

Thank you.

Celine Petrie

Chairman of the Board

Humane Society/SPCA of Sumter County, Inc.